Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Special Interest Group

(For information on Special Interest Groups, see “Introducing Special Interest Groups”)


Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer identities have historically been seen as different or shameful in relation to heteronormative culture and so have found themselves excluded from the history books. A discourse has formed around the inherent correctness of the archive as the valid system for preserving history and often, little traditional archival material has existed to represent the historical experience of many LGBTQ communities.

In recent years, oral historians tend to speak increasingly of narrators instead of interviewees, and of narratives instead of answers or responses. A narrative therefore becomes potentially a thing in itself that is created by the encounter between the interviewee and interviewer and can provide an ordered account, from disordered material or experience, which provides insight into how people use storytelling to make sense of their world and provides the opportunity to recall and recount histories and interactions which have sat outside the heteronormative notions surrounding traditional archives.

An individual’s lived experience can be accessed by encouraging them to talk about a specific time, situation, issue or circumstance from their past. Consequently, this approach can provide access to LGBTQ recollection and enable its collection and addition to the archive. Unlike many cultural histories, these experiences are not handed down in the traditional intergenerational manner, as the next generation of LGBTQ individuals do not automatically share this aspect of their identity with the generation before. As a result, the collection and transmission of these histories becomes even more important for those working in this field.

What is the LGBTQ Special Interest Group?

The LGBTQ SIG seeks to bring together Oral History Society members who are working with LGBTQ participants or communities or are interested in the issues and practice involved, to gather and share knowledge, to explore a history that had historically been hidden, and to formulate an Oral History Society response that can be useful for the wider oral history community.

The LGBTQ SIG’s purpose in the first instance is to
Bring together members of the Oral History Society with an interest in LGBTQ histories and encourage new members. LGBTQ histories have traditionally been overlooked and much work has been taking place in recent years to redress that balance. It is clear, however, that many groups and individuals work in their own particular localities and specialism.

The group intends to
• Create a forum and network in which oral history practitioners working with the LGBTQ community can exchange ideas and best practice
• Support one another to make significant advances to the field and initiate new projects
• Encourage new members into the Oral History Society while offering new insights to the Oral History Society
• Provide a forum for discussion of the particular practices and methodologies arising from working with and within the LGBTQ community
• Establish a central hub of existing and past projects in order to draw together work and increase awareness of projects and archives
• Increase LGBTQ community engagement and the sharing of knowledge through events (conferences, workshops, seminars, webinars)

As a new undertaking, the group’s purpose continues to emerge from the group and discussions within the group. We welcome new members and have an open door policy. For more information or to join the group, please contact the chair, Clare Summerskill ( or the secretary, George Severs (

LGBTQ Oral Histories

Oral history is one of the most exciting methods for recording, preserving, and celebrating the lives and experiences of LGBTQ people. For several decades numerous projects have sought to record the lives of our queer forbears. Many of these important collections, however, remain uncatalogued or held in in places unknown to most researchers. The map of LGBTQ Oral Histories is a crowd-sourced initiative sponsored by the OHS LGBTQ Special Interest Group and the Queer Beyond London research project that seeks to identify, locate and map these important collections so that students, researchers and community members may have fuller access to our past.